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Tracking the Serpent: Journeys to Four Continents
     

Tracking the Serpent: Journeys to Four Continents

by Janine Pommy Vega
 

These are the true-life adventures of a woman who ranges over four continents, endeavoring to go beyond the limits of ordinary life. Recovering from an accident, she goes to Glastonbury, where she finds energy portrayed in ancient earthworks as a snake coiled in concentric circles around a hill. To walk this spiral is called threading the maze, which means both to

Overview

These are the true-life adventures of a woman who ranges over four continents, endeavoring to go beyond the limits of ordinary life. Recovering from an accident, she goes to Glastonbury, where she finds energy portrayed in ancient earthworks as a snake coiled in concentric circles around a hill. To walk this spiral is called threading the maze, which means both to ascend and to go deep within. This becomes a guiding emblem of her pilgrimages to sites of female spiritual and temporal power, from the Irish countryside to the Amazon jungle to the high mountain cultures of Nepal.

"Fascinating people, places, and landscapes come alive at the touch of Vega's observant eye and open heart. Tracking the Serpent takes the reader on an exciting journey, as cultural exploration ignites dramatic self-discovery and spiritual insight." —Miranda Shaw

"With poetry one line, in prose a steady mind. Vega learned from poetry how to use details, with prose, to keep track of time. I really respect this book." —Gregory Corso

"In these remarkable accounts, full of color and suspense, Vega carries us along on the strength of her own urgency to places few of us will ever see for ourselves. An informative guide and a brave one, she never ceases to question her own assumptions. For the armchair traveler, these are splendid excursions." —Hettie Jones

Janine Pommy Vega, Beat Generation writer, performer, and musician, is the author of twelve books. For many years she has worked with Poets in the Schools, and she is a member of PEN’s Prison Writing Committee.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The story of the Beat Generation is one of the most fascinating chapters in American literary history, but until recently recognition of the lives and work of the women writers of that movement has been spotty at best. Vega, a poet who was included in Brenda Knight's 1996 anthology, Women of the Beat Generation, here recounts her adventures in a lyrical memoir organized into four loosely related essays. She traces her lifelong thirst for travel back to her childhood in Union City, N.J., when her father, a milkman, took her along on his route, awakening her curiosity about the world beyond familiar limits. As a teenager, she was attracted to the bohemian lifestyle of the Beats, and moved to New York, where she met and fell in love with Fernando Vega, a Peruvian painter. They lived and traveled in Paris, Ibiza and Jerusalem until his sudden death at the age of 33. Devastated by her loss, Vega began a pilgrimage, a search for life's meaning. She visited ancient sites in England and Ireland; journeyed through the Amazon jungle; braved the threat of Shining Path guerrillas in the high Andes; and endured great hardships in the Himalayasall in a quest for insight into sacred female religious power, or serpent power. Vega's memoir is somewhat disjointed, but nonetheless affecting, as she travels the world seeking consolation, challenge and inspiration. (Sept.)
Kirkus Reviews
In this loosely unified collection, poet Vega visits not four but three continents and produces a rambling but brave-hearted account of her exploits.

Pursuing evidence of a neolithic earth goddess, she alights in the English countryside, where she treks to ancient towers and earthworks and engages in a brief, romantic fling with an eager innkeeper whose wife similarly espouses open marriage. Following sidetrips to Ireland and a quick visit to Chartres, the reader is whisked to the Peruvian Amazon, where Vega visits a former convict she encountered while on a prison visit years before, who now lives in a bug-infested backwater. Our adventurer learns, among other things, how to ward off mosquitoes while relieving herself, engages in an intense affair with a handsome exdrug trafficker, and tops off her trip in fine, hallucinogenic style by consuming the local yage. Two years later, returning to Peru, she keeps to the high ground, trekking through the Andes with a group of guides (her sexual advances rebuffed), avoiding Shining Path guerillas, and severely testing her stamina. Yet this romp is nothing compared to her next journey, to Nepal. After arriving in Kathmandu, Vega hires a guide for a treacherous climb through the Himalayas. Twice plunging ahead of her sullenly uncooperative companion, she finds herself on perilous outcroppings. Determined to avoid a group of obnoxious tourists, she crosses a 17,000-foot pass during a snowstorm. Cropping up at odd intervals are discussions about female energy, Vega's sexual intensity and evaluations of her consorts' talents, and other arcana that are treated with such brevity (there's a one-sentence account of a miscarriage in a bathroom) that the reader can't care.

While Vega's is a likable voice, her narrative never rises above the self-indulgent, unfocused standard that seems to have become the norm for the recent outpouring of travel adventures.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780872863279
Publisher:
City Lights Books
Publication date:
01/01/2001
Pages:
256
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.50(d)

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